WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

Bolivia at the Ballot Box: Will Elections Provide a Path to Peace, or Plunge the Country into Renewed Crisis?

11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, 14 October 2020

AP Images/Juan Karita

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Last October, Bolivia’s national elections convulsed the country as fraud allegations triggered massive protests, leading to the ouster of President Evo Morales, the installation of Jeanine Áñez as interim president, and the nullification of the October 2019 general elections. Áñez’s tenure has been marked by repression of political opponents and the failure to respond adequately to the devastating health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After multiple postponements prompted by the pandemic, Bolivians will return to the polls on October 18 to elect a new president and vice president as well as a new national legislature. A second round of voting would take place on November 29 if none of the presidential candidates wins outright in the first round—which would require topping 50 percent of valid votes or garnering at least 40 percent the vote with a 10-point advantage over the closest competitor. Surveys indicate that Luis Arce, the presidential candidate of Morales’ Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) party is the front runner, followed by Carlos Mesa of Comunidad Ciudadana.

Achieving fair, inclusive and transparent elections will be crucial for Bolivia to transcend its political crisis: restoring democratic governance, establishing a modicum of social peace, and securing justice for victims of human rights violations. But even with the legitimacy conferred by credible elections, Bolivia’s new executive and legislative leaders will face daunting challenges in a fiercely polarized country wracked by COVID-19 and hobbled by endemically weak institutions.

Please join us a for a timely discussion of the roots of Bolivia’s crisis, the electoral campaign, and potential scenarios for the future, depending on the outcomes of the voting on October 18. Instructions for webinar access will be emailed to registered participants.

Event Details:

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. EDT


Eduardo Rodríguez Velzté

Former President of Bolivia

Kathryn Ledebur

Director, Andean Information Network (AIN)

Santiago Anria

Assistant Professor of Political Science and Latin American Studies, Dickinson College


John Walsh

Director for Drug Policy and the Andes, WOLA

Simultaneous interpretation in English and Spanish will be available.

Eduardo Rodríguez Velzté served as Chief Justice of Bolivia’s Supreme Court from March 2004 until June 2005. Following the resignation of Carlos Mesa as president, Rodríguez Velzté served as President of Bolivia from June 2005 until January 2006. In his brief tenure, he focused on carrying out new elections, which took place in December 2005 and resulted in the election of Evo Morales. Subsequently, Rodríguez Velzté has served as Dean of the Law Faculty at the Catholic University of Bolivia and as Bolivia’s Ambassador to the Netherlands and before the International Court of Justice at the Hague. He is a lawyer with a master’s degree in public administration.

Kathryn Ledebur is a researcher, advocate, and analyst of Bolivian politics, U.S. foreign policy, human rights issues, and drug control strategies, with over two decades of experience. She directs the Andean Information Network (AIN), a human rights and drug policy non-profit organization in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Ledebur has published numerous articles, memos, and reports on U.S.-Bolivian relations, as well as human rights, drugs, and development policy in the Andean region. She is a lead researcher in the AIN-University of Reading project on alternative livelihoods.

Santiago Anria is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Latin American Studies at Dickinson College. His research focuses on social movements, political parties, and democracy and has appeared in journals including Comparative PoliticsComparative Political Studies, the Journal of DemocracyStudies in Comparative International Development, and Latin American Politics and Society. Professor Anria’s 2018 book, When Movements Become Parties: The Bolivian MAS in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics Series) examines the origins, evolution, and organizational models of parties formed by social movements in Latin America.